Once, I was in a strategic management class. The lectures sounded very interesting, but as I sat down with all ears, listening to grab some basic information about a new dimension, since my background has always been sciences, I began to ruminate. On paper, strategies were cool, but my thoughts were on practical realities. That day, I said to myself, ‘after all said and done, the behaviour of man determines the extent of the quality of his leadership.’
Why do employers ask for skills outside academic qualifications and job experiences? This is because they want to know who you are, outside your expertise. Professionalism has gone beyond the mere ability to do the job; conducts and relationships are part of the attributes that will help you stand out in your endeavours. You may be a technician, but an employer may demand that, to be eligible for the job, you must possess strong interpersonal skills and be a good team player. ‘Why do you need all that?’ you may ask, ‘Isn’t the major issue, the ability to do the job?’ Yes, the major issue is the ability to do the job, but a workplace does not only contain machines; it has people. Where there are people, there are diverse beliefs, company cultures and politics, different races or ethnicities, and so on. Where you have these, you need excellent personal attributes to deal with the dynamics, change or behaviourisms.
A few hours before writing this article, I told my wife the story of someone I know too well. He was so talented and very good at what he does, but his weakness was that, he was too critical of people, and this affected his relationships. He wouldn’t interact outside his circle in spite of the fact that his job had to do with people, and bit by bit, he began losing his grandeur until he fizzled out. What makes the story pathetic is that he raised his children in a similar manner; he would lock them up in the house, not allowing them relate with fellow kids. When they grew up, they became rigid, and found it difficult to respect other people’s opinions because they were used to living in their own world.
Background, is a major contributor of personal attributes. How a man was raised impacts how he relates. If he was raised to respect people, he grows up respecting people, but if he was raised to demean others, he ends up doing the same. So, the personal attributes most people demand are hardly learnt in schools; their foundations are from home. Parents and guardians should realise that they form part of the ability of their wards to meet the job descriptions of their potential employments. If we all think in this direction, the better future we expect for our world will be achieved.
A couple of years ago, I read on one of London’s newspapers the story of a child in a primary school. It was the culture of the school that when the Head-teacher comes into the class, the pupils will stand up as a form of respect. This boy refused to get up, and due to that, was reprimanded. His father, in defence of his son, insisted that he had the right not to follow the rule of the school; in short, he instructed him not to. He also had the audacity to come on the media to voice his damaged beliefs. When I read it, I wondered the kind of precedence such a father is leaving for an innocent boy. His ignorance couldn’t teach him that he was laying a wrong foundation that may sink the building in the near future.
I may make excuses for certain people’s lack of positive attributes due to their backgrounds, but what I can’t excuse is the inability or unwillingness to embark on personal development in order to enhance their skills. Skills can be learnt through deliberate and purposeful actions. Let us take for instance, the skill of being a team player. You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to correct that deficiency; what you need to do is to be conscious of your attitude when you’re in a team. Ask yourself certain questions like:
During the meetings of my team, do I talk too much? If you do, that may be an indication that you’re not giving other people the privilege to make contributions. And if that is the case, correct it.
Do I take instructions? Saying yes to an instruction does not mean following the instruction. If everyone is instructed to go right, but you go left, you’re not a team player.
Do I make meaningful contributions to the team in terms of suggestions and ideas? If you only sit in the team to follow instructions without also making contributions, you aren’t doing your team any good. What will help you to generate ideas is your willingness to study more on your career or profession. Update is the basic answer; if you update yourself on the rudiments of your field, you will have something to say when there is a need to. Please, also realise that you must not enforce your contribution on your team. If you do, you’re short of being a team player. Decisions reached in a team play are collective.
Personal attributes play big roles in the career or profession of an individual. These attributes are either acquired from childhood or midway in life. I strongly believe that there can be a turnaround midway in life. I don’t accept the human resources philosophy that younger people are more flexible to learn than older people. For me, flexibility is all about mentality. There are rigid young and old people, and there are also, flexible young and old people. Stereotyping age for flexibility or rigidity is a wrong ideology.
Grow your personal attributes; improve your personal qualities, and you’ll stand out in your profession!